In the 1980s, David DeBoor Canfield often got together with friends for an evening of string quartet reading. In 1983, he got the idea of writing a short piece for his quartet to read, never intending to do anything further with it. The fun aspect of the two movements (the first and third of the present work) he wrote for this occasion was indicated not only by the 19th-century romantic style of the piece, but by his jocular appending of the subtitle, 'Watergate Lament,'to the quartet.
After Canfield's quartet read the work, it was thrown into a drawer and forgotten until the Spring of 1988 when violinist Glenn Basham (then concertmaster of the Ft. Wayne Philharmonic, and who had commissioned the composer for his second violin sonata) was visiting Canfield, and asked him if he had written any string quartets. Canfield made a copy of these two movements for Basham to try out with his quartet. Shortly later, he received a call from the violinist asking that he complete the work, at which point the composer wrote movements two and four, and expanded the first movement to a more appropriate length.
The 'after Mendelssohn' part of the title was added only years later, when Canfield had begun writing works in the style of older composers who had never written for certain instruments. This 'after' series began with his Concerto after Gliere for Alto Saxophone & Orchestra of 2007. The present quartet is an anomaly in this series in that Mendelssohn himself wrote numerous quartets; additionally, when Canfield wrote the piece, he was not attempting to imitate Mendelssohn's style, and indeed, most of the work sounds nothing like him. The only reason that he picked Mendelssohn was the use of quotes from the German master's violin concerto in the first movement and the transition from his own A Minor Quartet between the introduction and exposition of the last movement. There are, to be sure, a few places where Mendelssohn's style is evoked, along with that of Schubert, Ravel, Richard Strauss, and other composers.
String Quartet after Mendelssohn in A Minor has been recorded on Enharmonic ENCD12-026 by violinists, Rachel Patrick and Won Hee Lee, violist, Dash Nesbitt, and cellist, Kevin Kunkel.
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